NY Army Guard helicopters crews practice fire fighting over Mohawk this afternoon, April 15

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An Army National Guard UH-60 conducting fire bucket training over the Mohawk River in 2021.

COLONIE, NEW YORK (04/15/2024) (readMedia)-- New York Army National Guard Black Hawk helicopter crews will be conducting wildfire fighting training drills on the Mohawk River between the Twin Bridges and Route 9 this afternoon -- April 15-- and then again, as needed on April 16, 17 and 18.

The UH-60M helicopters, which are based at Army Aviation Support Facility #3 at the Albany International Airport, will be operating from Colonie Town Park during the training.

The aircraft will be dipping giant orange collapsible buckets slung underneath the helicopters into the Mohawk River, and then dropping the loads of water back into the river. This replicates the skills needed to fight a wildfire.

The Bambi Buckets, a trademarked name, can carry 660 gallons of water and weigh 2.8 tons when filled.

Flying with almost three tons of water hanging beneath the helicopter is a skill which must be trained annually to maintain proficiency. Ground crews will also get practice in hooking up the buckets, which weigh 260 pounds empty.

The training will take place from noon until 4 p.m. on Monday, April 15 and from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on the following days.

Department of Environmental Conservation Forest Rangers will also participate in the training. Rangers are often responsible for guiding Army National Guard helicopter crews onto a fire target. Training together will allow the Rangers and Soldiers to get used to working together.

Army National Guard helicopter crews from the New York Army National Guard's three flight facilities-located in Latham, Rochester, and Ronkonkoma-practice their firefighting skills each spring to be ready to respond if the Department of Environmental Conservation requests assistance in fighting fires.

The last time New York Army National Guard helicopters were used to fight a fire was in August 2022 when I fire was burning at Minnewaska State Park Reserve near Ellenville.

Two UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters based at the Latham flight facility dropped 80 buckets of water, totaling about 45,000 gallons of water, on the fire alongside New York State Police helicopters.

The National Guard helicopters are more powerful than the helicopters flown by the State Police and can carry larger water buckets.

That blaze involved 200 firefighters, some coming from as far as Quebec, Canada. The fire, which eventually covered 270 acres, was ignited by a lightning strike Aug. 26.

The flight crews training for the mission, will spend the morning of April 15 in the classroom and then conduct flying missions to hone their skills.

The New York Army National Guard flies the UH-60M, the most recent version of the Black Hawk helicopter the Army has operated since 1979. The M version incorporates an all-digital display cockpit, improved rotors, and a more powerful engine than older Black Hawks.